Monday, December 22, 2014

Joe Has Just Left the Building

Joe Cocker died, age 70, from lung cancer.

It was the 1970's. I remember it well, which is interesting, as I remember very little. In the front of the house, next to the air conditioner, my mom kept a stack of albums [shut up] against the wall. One had a white background and a picture of some strange looking guy who seemed to be in pain. With a cover like that, it had to be good. I was a youngster so I didn't know any better but I knew what I liked. I wore the damn album out and collected more and more. 

Yes, my mother turned me on to Joe Cocker. Turnabout is fair play: I introduced her to the Allman Brothers and took my parents to their first Little Feat concert.

I only saw him once or twice in concert, although I had video and audio. You can catch a lot of his stuff on Youtube but I recommend Mad Dogs and Englishmen, a documentary of his tour in the very early seventies. Leon Russell was his musical director. My, how things have changed.

There are certain songs that never fail to get an audience going. As a result, my bands always played Feelin' Alright. Also The Letter. No matter how poorly we played it, the audience got up and danced.

Jimmy Page was a session guitarist way back then and played on 'With a Little Help' and 'Bye Bye Blackbird'. Page also played on Tom Jones' 'It's Not Unusual' and a fair percentage of the music coming out of England at the time.

When I was doing musical comedy, I did a Cocker parody. While I can do a decent imitation, I cannot really sing (like most singers today, I never let that stop me).

People often ask about non-guitar players influencing your playing.  Joe opened me up to new kinds of music. He made me want to play. He also made me want to sing (my poor audiences). Fortunately his songs and style are well-documented and will be with us forever.

My first black rescue cocker was named Joe Cocker Spaniel. He, too, was a legend in his area.

We aren't left with a lot in his wake. We still have Gregg Allman, Delbert McClinton and Sass Jordan (who did a duet with Joe).

Man, I'm getting old.

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